Technical Report Metis Arts Consulting. Paper abstract bibtex
Beginning in 2012, Pillsbury House + Theatre (PH+T), a hybrid arts center/social service organization, began experimenting with arts-based community development in its four surrounding neighborhoods. With ArtPlace and subsequent Minnesota State Arts Board funding, it launched the Arts on Chicago (AOC) and Art Blocks programs. In the span of two years, over 30 neighborhood-based artists engaged their neighbors in 52 projects that ranged from a stilting club to artistic bike racks to puppet shows to photographic portraits of neighbors. PH+T also developed structures to remain responsive to changing community interests and provide artist project leaders with professional development. What is the change that PH+T sought to make and how and why did it expect this change to occur? Ultimately, they hoped to empower neighborhood residents, which included artist project leaders, to affect positive change. That positive change could be individual, family-level, or community-wide outcomes, with goals and values ideally determined collectively by neighborhood residents. PH+T theorized that this change would come about by catalyzing a critical mass of participatory neighborhood arts activities. Led by neighborhood artists, these activities would be strategically designed to foster residents’ access to arts participation, increase residents’ levels of community attachment, and promote residents’ agency (both individual and collective). PH+T imbued each of these concepts with sub-themes and values, which directly informed the selection of our research questions. To advance field-wide knowledge, provide accountability to its stakeholders, and deepen the effectiveness of its future work, PH+T engaged Metris Arts Consulting to collaborate on this evaluation. This report assesses the impact of 2012-2014 Art Blocks and Arts on Chicago activities on residents’ arts and cultural “access,” community “attachment,” and individual and collective “agency.” It also explores what strategies were most effective and makes recommendations on how to improve data collection efforts moving forward. Our findings capture the perspectives of artist project leaders, neighborhood residents and other civic stakeholders. We made use of the extensive data collected internally by PH+T, prior to Metris’ involvement, and also designed and executed select additional methods to help us address gaps in our ability to answer specific research questions. Core data sources include artists’ final reflections (response rates of 70%-83% of artist teams/year); spreadsheets detailing the social connections that Arts on Chicago artists made via their projects, which underpinned our social network analysis (response rate of 60% of artist teams); and a residents’ survey designed with a quasi-control group (response rate of 14%). Using a range of data sources, we explored AOC and Art Blocks’ impacts related to residents’ arts access, community attachment, and individual and collective agency.